How to Love Free From Expectations
Family…we’ve all got one, and there is a good chance they drive you a bit crazy now and then. So what can you do in those moments when you’ve been dragged into the middle of yet another argument between two family members? Or have been asked for, and given advice for, the fifteenth time to your cousin who never takes it? What about when your partner has not held up their end of the housework for the second time in one week?
You could let your stress and frustration levels get the best of you likely further aggravating the situation with hurtful words or actions. Or, you could cultivate an objective attitude by approaching the situation based on facts and an open mind rather than feelings or opinions.
When you remove the negative thoughts and feelings (like frustration or anxiety) from the equation and instead look at things objectively, it becomes easier to handle things in a calm manner, and in turn make better decisions. However, this is often easier said than done as we often let our past emotions cloud our ability to think objectively about someone. In other words, when you’re angry, frustrated, sad, etcetera, it’s very hard to stop, listen to the facts, and remain open-minded.
Elizabeth R. Thornton, author of The Objective Leader: How to Leverage the Power of Seeing Things As They Are, recommends doing the following the next time you feel your emotions start to override your ability to think objectively:
Realize that Objectivity Has Its Limits
No one is 100 percent objective and once you realize that you aren’t inherently objective, it will be easier to take the steps you need to make yourself better at maintaining an objective viewpoint in your interactions with family.
Be Aware Of Your Triggers
We all have moments when no matter how hard we try it’s VERY hard to think rationally or objectively. You can think of these situations as your triggers. Having the self-awareness to identify what these triggers are in advance will help you to act in a positive manner rather than react automatically in a negative manner.
For example, when you know that a conversation with your spouse about chores is going to “make your blood boil” you can address the feelings in advance of the actual situation so that you can remain objective in the “heat of the moment” rather than starting an argument. For example, if the feelings about the situation make you feel wound up and ready to burst, go for a run instead. Or, you could write your feelings out in a letter rather than releasing them in a verbal outburst (it is helpful to reread the letter when you feel calm and decide then whether you will actually deliver it, revise it or just let it alone).
Ask for Input
One of the best ways to become more objective is to ask for the opinions of others, specifically regarding how their views differ from yours. The best people to ask for this opinion are often those who care most about you. They will likely give you this advice in a way you will pay attention to. Ask questions like “Here’s what I’m seeing. Do you see it differently?”
When you talk through a situation, you will begin to understand how to accept your loved ones they way they are, rather than the way you perceive them to be. When you understand their behaviour, you will be less likely to overreact to situations.
Don’t Let Your Personality Get the Best of You
This is especially important if you’re naturally a people pleaser as this personality type is prone to making decisions based at least in part on a desire to avoid conflict or unpleasantness with others.
By taking the steps above, it will become easier to see what is “good” or “bad” in a given situation without adding your past anger or emotions into the mix. You will become calmer and make healthier decisions in stressful situations.
Having an objective attitude is good for not only managing bad expectations of a family member, but also for managing the good. When you have high expectations and the other person doesn’t come through (i.e. you’ve asked your sister who is a baker to make an important birthday cake but the cake turned out all wrong) it can trigger a cascade of unpleasant emotions. On the flip side, when you have very low expectations it can cause friction in an already stressful relationship, as you automatically expect the worst from that person. For example if you expect someone to be insulting, you are more likely to interpret things they say as being insulting even when no insult is intended.
Make this the year that you love your family for who they are, quirks and all, rather than who you would like them to be. We can’t always pick our family but we can certainly pick how we manage our expectations of them.
To your objective attitude – Anna